Grandparents aren’t perfect. In fact, we make a lot of mistakes. But that’s because the skills used in grandparenting and parenting are incredibly similar, yet worlds apart.
After all, we raised our own children to be happy adults, didn’t we? Yes, we know a lot about raising children. What we don’t know is much about grandparenting until we’ve done it for a while.
In the case of grandparenting, the phrase “live and learn” is quite apropros for both the grandparents and the parents. New grandparents are going to make mistakes just as new parents do. But with a little practice and a few tips, both sides can work together to bring up children who are well-adjusted and successful. Here is some advice from experts—and some from my own experience as a grandmother.
What grandparents need to realize.
- You are not the ultimate authority in parenting, nor are you in charge. Your daughter or son is. Arguing with their parenting choices or undermining them—especially in front of the grandchildren—can cause irreparable damage to your relationships.
- Children are raised a bit differently today than they were when you were a child. Many of the parenting techniques our parents used and we used simply won’t work with today’s kids. They live in a hyper-stimulated world and face issues and challenges we never had to deal with. If your son or daughter uses a time-out chair or doesn’t, cracks down on their children for backtalk or doesn’t, established a firm bedtime or doesn’t is none of your business. Your job is to love your grandchildren and support your child’s parenting decisions. Period.
- “Spoiling” your grandchildren is not helpful to anyone. Now, I’m not talking the occasional shopping trip or bending the rules a tad here and there in your home. I’m talking about overindulging your grandchildren in anything from material items to leniency. When you are spending time with your grandchildren, try to follow parental rules, even if you don’t agree with them. If mom says no video games after 7 pm, then don’t let your grandchild play video games after 7 pm.
- Comparing isn’t fair. Don’t compare your child’s parenting to yours. Saying things like, “I would have never let YOU get away with that!” or “If I were raising these kids, they’d listen!” They are not your kids, so it’s not right for you to criticize their parents—especially in front of them. Remember, your child is raising his or her children in a world that is vastly different than the one you grew up in, and the old rules often don’t apply.
What parents need to remember.
- Your parents actually DO know a thing or two. Not every piece of advice they give is wrong. You may want to ask them for their advice once in a while. Unless you grew up in an abusive or truly dysfunctional household, you might learn a thing or two from mom and dad about raising your own children.
- Respect your parents. Just as I advise grandparents not to undermine you in front of the children, don’t undermine them with comments like, “Oh grandma just doesn’t understand the world today,” or “Grandpa is crazy if he thinks I’m going to let you play football.” Unity and accord are the watchwords for combining parenting and grandparenting.
- Grandparents make mistakes. They’re not perfect. Occasionally we may say or do things that upset you, but try to cut us some slack, especially if we are first-time grandparents. We’re as new to this gig as you are to yours as parents! We will err, but we will also have to watch you make mistakes that we can’t help but think we could have prevented. Let’s vow to work together to raise happy, healthy kids!